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Table of Contents
Vol. 15, No. 5, 2012
Issue release date: June 2012

From Protection of Privacy to Control of Data Streams: A Focus Group Study on Biobanks in the Information Society

Snell K. · Starkbaum J. · Lauß G. · Vermeer A. · Helén I.
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Abstract

Most people in Europe do not know what biobanks are. In this study, public perceptions of biobanks and collection of genetic and health data were analyzed in relation to other technologies and digital networks where personal information is compiled and distributed. In this setting, people contextualized biobanks in line with their daily experiences with other technologies and data streams. The analysis was based on 18 focus group discussions conducted in Austria, Finland and Germany. We examined the ways in which people frame and talk about problems and benefits of information distribution in digital networks and biobanks. People identify many challenges associated with collection of personal data in the information society. The study showed that instead of privacy – which has been the key term of bioethical debates on biobanks – the notions of control and controllability are most essential for people. From the viewpoint of biobanks, issues of controllability pose challenges. In the information society, people have become accustomed to controlling personal data, which is particularly difficult in relation to biobanks. They expressed strong concerns over the controllability of the goals and benefits of biobanks.



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